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--- updated December 21, 2013

Twenty-six children, residents of Erie Heights, Pineview, and the John E. Horan Garden Apartments, learned a few things on the way to, and during, their December 19 and 20 stage production of  “The Little Mermaid."

First, as Erie Housing Authority Executive Director John E. Horan told them at dress rehearsal on December 18, they learned that "learning new things is a good thing." The lessons the children learned in the four months of preparation for the play about focus and persistence and diligence will pay off for them as they grow into adults, he told them.

The  cast, members of the YMCA Kids Clubs, are “YMCA Future Stars” and ranged in age from six to 16.

Horan also reminded the children not to forget the people behind the scenes who made the play possible -- their friends who lugged props around in the darkness on stage between acts and who made the production possible, with little fanfare.

The cast of children also learned they are appreciated for their efforts.

At the end of the performance, as he has done through the years at every annual stage production of the YMCA Kids Club, Horan stepped onto the stage and in front of an audience of friends, parents, and relatives, gave each cast member a shiny gold medal on a red ribbon for a job well done.  He praised every cast member as he draped the medal around their necks and told the audience a little about their backgrounds -- as well as how proud he and the the Authority are of them.

The play was staged both nights at the Performing Arts Collective Alliance, 1505 State Street, second floor, at 7 p.m.  The venue was like something out of Greenwich Village, the artists haven of the 20th century in Lower Manhattan.

"When we drove the kids up to the buildings, they could see the twinkling Christmas lights inside behind the windows," said Cherie Kinem, director of YMCA Housing Authority programs.  "Those lights amazed them as much as anything.  "We told them the bright lights of the stage were just for them!" she said.

The "Future Stars" have been rehearsing for the event hours each day since late October to illustrate the story:  Having fallen in love with a little prince, a little mermaid makes a pact with a sea-witch to give up her voice in exchange for human legs.

Admission was free.

Kinem said she was not sure if some of those in the play wanted to go on in the theater.  "But if they don't, there are a number of them who should," she said.

Three children who started out in YMCA Kids Clubs stage productions have gone on to appear in stage productions of the Erie Playhouse, she said.

"Oh, and one piece of advice," Horan  said to the cast members before stepping down.  He noted that parts of the scenes in the play were indeed very funny.  And that's why there was so much laughter in the audience throughout the play, and rightly so.

""But those of you in the play, those onstage acting, are not supposed to laugh at the funny parts yourselves," he said.  "Even though it is funny.  You don't laugh at your yourselves,  Not during the play, anyway.  There's plenty of time for laughing and fun after the play is over when you get together with your friends in the audience."

"And it IS about fun," Horan said.  "The main things are  to learn something and to have fun."